Secular Muslim

Growing up as a Muslim in America placed me in ethical and socially contradictory environments from a very impressionable age. Straddling the gaps between two cultures resulted with my mind becoming a bending, twisty path between contradictory morals, questionable behavior, and unorthodox beliefs.

So for the past few years I’ve been having to untwist some knots and untangle some beliefs. Sometimes I’d like to take a hot iron to it and smooth out the wrinkles, flatten myself out into a nice crisp set of beliefs with perfect edges that fold just right into my head.

This is the first month of Ramadan that I’ve gone in a while where I haven’t taken a “day(s) off.” I’ve been a good Muslim and have kept my fasts and even woke up at 4 AM to eat Seheri. (No 5 times, or 4 times, or even 1 time daily prayer though).
So it’s not like I’ve come back to the religion. I don’t think I’ve ever left, but who knows, most would consider me as a non-muslim because I barely practice any of it anymore. But I tell myself that I try to live it instead.

I have some unorthodox beliefs about faith, spirituality, and what being a Muslim is about. A lot of it is contradictory to either side of the argument (whatever argument it is, it doesn’t matter). And if these beliefs were to be scrutinized with logic too much, the belief will begin to not make much sense.

But I believe them, they’re my little believies, as Louis CK once put it. And one of those beliefs is that the first Muslims were unorthodox in mind and action. They were questioners of the system by which they’ve lived their entire lives. They were idealistic but were led by a great man who knew how to guide that force.

I also believe that a Muslim is someone who strives for discipline in their behavior and the choices they make. To take the extra time to think and hold off action. To try and learn and not give up even if they don’t get it right the first few (hundred) times.

To the core, I still consider myself as a Muslim because I am always trying to achieve grace. I believe that grace is the underlying theme within the message that our Prophet brought. Grace in form of mercy and of gracefulness, a soft kind touch when possible.

So far I’ve untwisted some of the knots and straightened out the lines of thought into a few of these basic principles (of my own) of being a Muslim. I do not pray 5 times a day but I try and practice discipline in my craft and my hobbies. I don’t socialize at the mosque much, but I try to be gracious and grateful for the conversations I have and the people I’m with..

And I create trouble in the meantime by questioning everything, wondering if there really is a God up there. What if all this stuff I’m going through means nothing?


Glowing scars

“Please ask questions. Most likely if you have a question, then someone else does too.”

I’ve heard this plenty of times in an environment where someone is explaining something to a group of people. And it’s never helped ease my fears. I don’t feel any more comfortable speaking my mind, especially in front of a group of people. The fear of asking a stupid question that makes everyone laugh and think “what a retard” still persists.

Great artists realize quickly that to touch the hearts of your audience, you must become a mirror for the rage and pain, triumphs and glory that you experience deep within. These strong emotions are broiling in the stomachs of every person, yet on the outside they have to act (literally) like nothing is wrong.

That help-wishful phrase about others having the same questions might not actually be helpful in the situation that most people hear it. But otherwise it’s a very powerful statement. It means that despite what you are feeling, a lot of other people feel the same way you do. And the deeper you go into yourself and pull all those disgusting bits out of you, the more people feel connected to you.

Anyone can become a mirror for someone else, a powerful mirror that changes and moves people. A mirror that shines brightly the flaws in character that frees others from shame in their own scars. The people who have shone the brightest in human history are those who have somehow embraced their flaws, and through learning from them, masterfully transformed those flaws into their greatest triumphs. And then these people dedicate their lives to bringing the same transformation to others in their lives.

So if you have a question, a yearning question deep inside you that you haven’t asked anyone because you’re afraid, afraid that no one else will understand, no one else has asked. Then don’t worry, ask it. Ask it of yourself first, and then find the answer to it. Because chances are, not only have others not even asked the question, very few have come to an answer.

And then, if you want, you can become a shining mirror to others by sharing your question. You can lead them to find the answer for themselves and transform themselves and their lives. You yourself can become a powerful transformative figure that will etch your signature into the book of human history. All because you had the courage the ask the question.


Playing a losing chess game

When I play chess, as soon as I hit some internal threshold where I feel like I’m sure to lose the game, I want to (and usually do) quit.

Now how does that translate to the rest of my life I wonder?

Today I won a game even though I was a bishop, a knight, and a pawn down within the first 20 moves. Granted if I was playing against a Grand Master, It’d probably have been a waste of both our times for me to continue playing.

But maybe the Grand Master wouldn’t think so, and that’s part of being a Grand Master.

Yet this time I swallowed hard and didn’t quit. Mainly because my opponent doesn’t quit either no matter how down he is. Eventually I was able to make solid moves until my opponent made mistakes while I kept increasing my advantages.

Before long I was only  down one pawn, but that didn’t matter because I had a discovered check that would allow me to capture his queen.

The game was over, I had won.

When re-analyzing the game, we found that I was allowed to continue forking or skewering his queen on different variations of those last few moves. It was because he made the fatal mistake of moving the king out of his protected pawn structure.

So far in my life I’ve worked to overcome my fear of pursuing goals that might seem unattainable. But I keep becoming hindered because I quit the first time things begin turning sour, when the curve of progress stops going up.

If I had to venture a guess as to the nature of success, I bet that it includes several dips on the road, no matter the pursuit. And yah, I’ve learned to start taking the first step and beginning the journey. But I haven’t been so good at finishing it.

Taipei 101

Considering that it was a nice cloudless day, my friend suggested that we go to city hall for lunch and then Taipei 101. I’ve never had lunch at a City Hall so I was intrigued. Turned out it was a massive indoor food court with too many convenient and tasty looking options. This vegetarian buffet caught my tastes and I ended up overloading my plate full off way too much food for only $4 US dollars (NT$120).


Stuffed, I gave up the idea of sampling some of the sweet desserts and we headed towards Taipei 101. At first it was sort of hard to find.. because there was a building that blocked our view of half the sky. Once we rounded the corner, it didn’t require any GPS or map to find where we needed to go. Being the largest building in the city, and the weirdest looking tower I’ve ever seen, it catches the eye and you can’t really look at anything but.


Taipei 101 supposedly symbolizes three things, or so the audio guide tour at the top tells you. One is that it represents the abilities of the Taiwanese people, because they give 101%, second it’s the number of floors, and third it’s binary digits representing the technological advances the building holds. It is a pretty neat building and definitely beats going to the Empire State building.

For NT$500 ($17 USD) you get to ride the fastest elevators to the 100th floor (done in 37 seconds flat) where you get personal phones that audio guide you through the 360 degree view of the city. Pointing out historical facts, interesting buildings and bridges, and tips on adventures you can have in the mountains.


But by far the next thing that Taipei 101 had to show definitely stole my engineering heart. The giant suspended ball mass damper, the only one on display anywhere in the world for the public to see in a skyscraper.. TWICE. The first time from the top, then again as you’re exiting in the midsection level.


And it also explains why there seemed to be a some large headed mascot at the entrance of floor 100, the baby mass damper. These baby mass dampers dance around on giant screens explaining to kids how a mass damper works.



Basically it’s a tall building with a view and people working their daily jobs on all the other floors that the tourists don’t use. It’s probably not the most exciting and wonderful thing to do in Taipei, but it’s definitely the thing you have to do since you’re in a city with one of those big buildings around.

But definitely don’t miss out on these other experiences in Taiwan:

How to get to Taipei

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) is two High-Speed Rail stops from Taipei. The following are detailed instructions to get to Taipei from the airport using public transportation.

First off to ease your mind, things you WON’T really need:

  • A visa if you’re American or a UK citizen (and if you’re visiting for less than 3 months)
  • Taiwanese currency
  • Any understanding of the language

Some things you will need are:

  • Some US cash (or whatever your country’s currency is)
  • The following steps

When you land in TPE, you’ll see signs for baggage claim and Immigration that will direct you to a large hall.


Ignore the currency exchanges you see along the way, for now worry about whether they’ll let you into the country.

There will be signs indicating non-citizens or citizens. If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re a non-citizen so get in the line with the rest of the foreigners.

If you aren’t going to stay longer than 90 days, you shouldn’t have any problems getting into the country with a visitors pass. Show them your return ticket back home and they’ll stamp your passport and set you on your way.

Continue following the signs to baggage claim, get your bags (if you have any) and then exit the baggage claim area. There are two exits, one where if you have to claim any items like fruits and seeds, one where you don’t have to claim anything and you just walk on through. If you have any seeds or fruits that they don’t want in the country, they’ll probably just confiscate it, I’m not really sure, I’m not much of a fruit and seed person myself.

Right outside the baggage claim exit should be a currency exchange place.


The minimum you’ll need to get to Taipei (as of November, 2013) is about NT$200 a person. Of course I’d get more in case you get lost and have to survive in the jungles of Taiwan and bribe your way out of being eaten by aboriginal cannibals. Make sure to get a few hundred dollar bills. The HSR (High Speed Rail) ticketing machine returns change in coins and you don’t want to carry hundreds of dollars in coins in your pocket. To double check fares, google “Taiwan High Speed Rail” and go to their website and check out the fares from Taoyuan to Taipei. Make sure you’re looking at Non-reserved seating.

The currency exchange charges you about NT$30, which is $1 US Dollars as of the writing of this post.


As you continue walking through the airport towards the exit, you’ll come across signs to guide you to High-Speed Rail Bus Stations.


When you get to the Bus Station desks, there are a few desks where you can buy tickets to various places in Taiwan. The following picture is from Terminal 1, other terminals might look different.


Look for the one where you can buy a ticket to H.S.R Taiyuan Station.


It should be about NT$30 and the person will know enough English to tell you which bus platform outside you need to wait at. There is also a person outside who you can show your ticket to guide you to the right bus. Taiwanese people are friendly so don’t be too shy about asking people to make sure you’re going the right way.

It’ll be about 15 minutes bus ride to the Rail Station. Head straight for ticket machines where they accept cash and even credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, the usual) but I don’t know whether your credit card company will charge you for using it in a foreign country or not.


There’s a button on the bottom-left to switch between English and Chinese languages. Follow the directions and get the Non-Reserved tickets. The other kind will be for a particular train at a particular seat and is more complex to manage.


You’ll be heading north-bound two stops to Taipei


After you’ve gotten your ticket, look for signs that indicate non-reserved platforms. To enter the station you go through the toll gate where you slide your card in at the bottom and it pops up at the top, the gate opens when you pull the card out from up top.


Once you’re in, you’ll have a choice between going downstairs in two different directions. One side is for platforms 1-6, reserved. The other is 7-12 for non-reserved. Go down the non-reserved side.


Downstairs, follow signs for Northbound platforms 7-12


There are etiquettes you should be aware while traveling in Taiwan:

When traveling on escalators, stand on the right side to let people rushing to their destinations go on the left side. You’ll notice that even though there aren’t any people rushing, everyone will still line up on the right side.


And when standing in line for trains, there are markings on the floor to tell you how to queue up. When the train/bus arrives, wait till everyone gets off before going in, don’t crowd the entry way.


Also, on the HSR you can eat and drink. But on other buses you usually can’t eat. You definitely also can’t eat or drink anything (even water) in the Metro trains OR the Metro train stations. You’ll get whistled or yelled at if you do. If you need to eat or drink anything on public transportation, look for signs warning you if you can or not.

Check out my other post on Surviving Taiwan for more tips and warnings about getting around in Taiwan.

Ok, continuing on to Taipei..

Make sure that you’re on a non-reserved platform, it will be clearly marked. When you get on the train, if you have large luggages, there are spots near the entrances where you can set them aside. The trains are really smooth (even though they accelerate to over 200 km/h) so you can stand without any problems if there aren’t any seats.


Taipei will be the second and last stop for the train. Once you get to Taipei, just follow the flow of the crowd till you’re outside the HSR gates where you can see a MRT information / service desk.


To best move around in Taipei, it’d be best to get a metro card, or EasyCard, from the person behind the service desk. These cards are basically used for all public transportations and you can even use them to buy things or re-charge the cards at convenient stores like 7-11 and Family Mart. The minimum balance they’ll start you off is NT$100, which is what they’ll ask for. I’d suggest getting at least NT$100 for every day that you’ll be spending in Taiwan. You can cash-out your EasyCard at similar stations for the remaining money you have on the card, so don’t worry about adding too much.

What about when I’m going back home?

All the steps are basically the same but backwards. It’ll cost the same amount to go from Taipei to Taoyuan. When you get to the Taoyuan train station, you can catch a NT$30 bus ticket back to the airport. The counters for the bus tickets are in front of the train station’s exit #5 (In front of the McDonalds).

Taoyuan_exit  Airport_bus

There are definitely a lot of things to do once you’ve reached Taipei, and fun stuff not that far outside the city. Check out my other posts on Taiwan below:

Surviving Taiwan

If you want a week visit an Asian country that is relatively (to an American) cheap, easy to get around, and packed with a lot of fun activities, I would highly suggest Taiwan. I stayed in Taiwan for two weeks, and each day was full exciting and new experiences. I didn’t know any Taiwanese Mandarin, and I had a budget of about $1,000 US dollars.

Following are a few guidelines, rules, and tips on how to survive Taiwan and how to maximize the quality of your experience in Taiwan. It’ll also, I hope, ease some of your worries about visiting an absolutely foreign country where barely anyone speaks English.

Taiwanese Etiquettes

Taiwan prides itself on being a clean and healthy environment for the public and visiting tourists. Hence you’ll see and should follow a few guidelines when traveling around in Taiwan.

1. Don’t eat or drink (even water) in the metro stations or the metro trains and buses. The only exceptions are long distance buses and trains like the High Speed Rail (HSR). Look out for the no eating and drinking signs posted.

This rule is strictly enforced on the metro stations and buses, breaking it will get you whistled or yelled at by security, dirty looks from other passengers, or even kicked out of the station or vehicle.


2. Don’t sit in the handicapped/priority seats. Even during rush-hour when the trains and buses are packed, you’ll see that most of those seats are left empty. They’re usually colored differently from the other seats and are well marked.


3. On escalators, stand on the right side and let people who are in a rush pass by on the left side. Even if there aren’t any people walking, stand on the right side anyways. This also goes for any pedestrianism, usually try to stay on the right side and let people pass you by on your left.


4. When waiting for the trains, there are lines on the ground to indicate where to line up. Once the train arrives, wait until people off-board before on-boarding. Don’t crowd the entrance, and don’t push and shove your way in. It’s bad manners in Taiwan.


5. If you’re sick or want to avoid being sick, invest in a mask. It’s ok, half the people you see will be wearing one. There’s even a fashion industry around face masks. I got sick for a few days on my trip to Taiwan, I should’ve been wearing a mask.


6. Don’t tip. Taxes are included in all pricing, so what you see on the menu is all that you pay. No tipping for services either, you might offend someone if you do, or at least confuse them as to whether you understand math.

7. Don’t litter. That’s a given in any city or anywhere. But I mention this specifically because you won’t find very many garbage bins around in Taiwan except in mall food courts and night markets. That’s because Taiwan doesn’t have the same sort of garbage system as the US does. Instead of the people being charged for garbage collection through taxes, Taiwan charges people for bags to put garbage in. So not everyone pays the same, and so garbage becomes a personal problem, not a national one.
It’s such a personal problem that it’d be rude of you to throw your personal garbage in someone else’s garbage. That’s why people in Taiwan usually pocket their garbage till they get home or find a less-rude area (like night market or malls) to throw their garbage away.

Speaking the language

Taiwan unfortunately doesn’t have a lot of English speakers on the streets. But I didn’t know any Chinese and still got around buying food and souvenirs, and even getting directions to common tourist spots alone.

The best would be to have a Mandarin Chinese fluent friend of course, or become one yourself. My friend, and Taiwan tour guide, has a blog about Learning Chinese if you are interested. The blog even comes with a free app to teach you how to read pinyin and pronounce Mandarin like a pro.

But I was too American to try and learn any of the language before I jumped on a plane and headed for Taiwan. What saved my lazy butt was the fact that most of the signs and menus used English numbers for prices. And you can get by with the 10 fingers on your hand or just handing over a couple NT$100 bills at food carts when you have no clue what something costs, and they’ll figure it out for you.

One thing I loved about Taiwan was how safe it was. I wasn’t worried about getting pick-pocketed or of vendors ripping me off.

Feeding yourself right Taiwan

If you don’t have any diet restrictions from allergies or religion, then have fun and skip over this section.

Taiwanese people love their meat, especially their pork. So, if you’re a vegetarian, you are going to have some hard times. If you’re a Muslim (like me!) then it’s a bit easier because there are a few fish options, but even then you have to be careful about the broth that they cook the noodles in.

To help fellow Muslims and non-fellow vegetarians out, I’ve compiled a list of characters you should probably become familiar with when looking for food in Taiwan:

All people should be able to eat food marked as 素 (Sù), unless mushrooms or tofu is poison to you. 素 is the vegetarian character. There are a few fully vegetarian restaurants and even some stands that offer vegetarian mock-meat type of dishes


  • 肉 – ròu. Generally used for any non-fish type of meat and pork
  • 豬 – zhū. Pig meat
  • 雞 – jī. Alone this character means chicken, together with 雞蛋 it means..
  • 雞蛋 – jī dàn. Chicken Egg
  • 魚 – yú. Generally used for fish
  • 羊 – yáng. Lamb or goat
  • 牛 – niú. Cow/beef. Usually for beef, Don’t get mixed up with 午, which means noon
  • 火腿 – huǒ tuǐ. Ham
  • 排骨 – pái gǔ. Ribs, might be from pig or cow
  • 鴨 – yā. Duck
  • 蛇 – shé. Snake
  • 血 – xuè. Blood. Usually coupled as 豬血 (zhū xuè, pig blood) or 鴨血 (yā xuè, duck blood), or as 血糕 (xuè gāo, blood cake)


  • 魚 – yú. Fish (general)
  • 鱈魚 – xuě yú. Cod
  • 鮭魚 – guī yú. Salmon
  • 魷魚 – yóu yú. Squid
  • 章魚 – zhāng yú. Octopus
  • 鮑魚 – bào yú. Abalone
  • 蝦 – xiā. Shrimp
  • 龍蝦 – lóng xiā. Lobster
  • 蛤蜊 – gé lí. Clam
  • 蚵仔 – é zǐ. Oyster

To learn how to pronounce these characters, I suggest you checkout the the free Pin Pin Chinese app for both iOS and Android. It helps you understand how to read and pronounce the pinyin (like ròu) so that you can impress those night-market food vendors with your skillz.

Finding Food

Certain food in Taiwan is relatively cheaper than food in the States, some are way more expensive. If you want Westernized food (burgers, pasta, etc.), they’ll be about the same prices as you’d pay in the US. If you want fruits and vegetables, expect to pay more than US prices unless they’re local fruits like durian.

But if you’re looking to stuff yourself silly with of pork buns, noodles, fish balls, and fried squid, expect to spend fractions of what you’d pay in the States. A dish of noodles, enough to feed two, could run you NT$60-90 ($2-3 USD). A bun, can fill up one hungry stomach quick, could be about NT$25 (less than $1 USD). An entire fried squid from a food-cart in a night market could be NT$45.


The price of food varies by where you get it from. Street food is the cheapest. There are carts on the corners of main streets or against the sides of alleyways, especially near businesses during breakfast and lunch times. Night-markets also have rows and rows of them.


Your other option, a little pricier, is to go down to the basement of any of the malls you come across and there will be a food court with way too many options.


A full plate of food in these malls will usually be around NT$120 or more (More than $4 USD), but they’ll be good and will definitely fill you up. You’ll also have lots of Japanese options like Ramen and Japanese Curries and even Teppanyaki. Usually these malls also have a large dessert section and might even have a bread store.

DEFINITELY visit the bread stores and get yourself some garlic cheese bread or creme filled scone.


But lets say that you’ve been in Taiwan for a couple days now and you’re hankering for some familiar food. Don’t fret, there are McDonalds almost everywhere and the food there are half the price of the ones in the US. But instead of going to McDonalds, I suggest you hit up the local Japanese Mos Burger chain instead. Here you can find something you won’t find anywhere else, a rice burger.


But what if you’re jet-lagged, it’s 4 AM, and you are very hungry and everything around is closed? Well not everything is closed. The local 24 hrs 7-Eleven or Family Mart convenience stores in Taiwan not only have the usual chips and cookies (or rather unusual Taiwanese variety chips and cookies, like seaweed doritos) but they also have Onigiri, hard-boiled eggs (in hot tea of all things), and other food stuffs. They even have frozen or chilled ready-made food trays that they’ll warm up in the store for you.


These are  just the tip of the ice-berg as far as eating is concerned. There are so many other experiences with food you can have in Taiwan. Expensive but eclectic Cafes, fruit juice carts, or 12-course meals in a restaurant in the mountains, there are far too many things to try.


Getting Around In Taiwan

Get an EasyCard as soon as you can from any of the MRT information / service desk. It will be the only card you’ll need for most train and bus transportation. These can be filled up at any 7-11 or family mart. All you do is show them the card and hold up in fingers how many NT$100’s (they can only be filled in $100 increments) you want on the card and they’ll guide you through the rest of the 10 second transaction. Don’t worry about over filling it, you can get that money reimbursed.

Check out the last part of my How to get to Taipei post which will explain how and where you can get an EasyCard.

Most of my two weeks spent in Taiwan has been situated in Taipei, so I’m not familiar with the metro system in the other large cities, like Kaohsiung (South City). But if it’s as easy to get around there as it is in Taipei (which is what I hear) then you’ll have no problems. The Taipei Metro Trains are nicely color coded for each of the lines. Each stop is announced in 4 languages, English being the last one. And most of the stops are situated around major locations you’ll want to visit anyways, like Taipei 101, Ximending, Taipei Zoo, etc.

The transportation is fairly cheap too. It’ll cost you about NT$30-$40 to get to and back from most places. I spent less than NT$1,000 ($33 USD) the entire two weeks I spent in Taiwan for transportation. And the trains are so frequent that I haven’t spent more than 5 minutes waiting for one.


The busses are a little more complex to navigate, but cheaper to ride. I’d suggest you get a local friend to guide you around on busses. Some busses you pay when you enter, some you pay when you get off, some both. Once you get a local to show you around, you can get the hang of it fairly easily.

High Speed Rail (HSR)

If you want to get out of the city FAST, you can use the High Speed Rail, Taiwan’s bullet train.


It’s not cheap though. To go from one end of Taiwan (Taipei) to the other end (Kaohsiung) will cost you NT$1580, about $50 USD. But for a 200 mile trip in 2 hours on the smoothest 186 mph ride you’ve ever had, $50 aint bad at all.

The HSR stations have automated ticket booths that has the option for English. They’re very easy to understand (especially since you can go only two directions on the bullet train, South and North). But watch out, the machines return change in coins, so make sure you have smaller bills and coins.

For a detailed explanation on how to get an HSR ticket and use the train, take a look at my How to get to Taipei post which explains how to get from the airport to Taipei using the HSR.

Dealing with back and knee pains

While growing up I had weight issues and to counteract the weight issues I’d go to the gym and and add more weights haphazardly to my skeleton to get rid of the pounds.

Needless to say, I ended up with chronic back, shoulder, and knee pains. I’ve gotten rid of the knee and back pains. The shoulder pains are a different story and I’ll let you know how that works out when I figure it out.

But for now, I’m sure some of you are interested in how I got rid of my back and knee pains. I first tried chiropractors, there was a clinic that somehow worked with my insurance to cover treatment for a few months. No real results.

Then I got massage therapy. Immediate results, and the painful weekly treatments resolved a lot of the more chronic nature of my back and knee problems. But they soon came back. And I went back to massage therapy, and it went away.. then came back.

So what was going on? Over time I realized that the massage therapy healed the muscle damage, time healed the ligament damage. But my constant posture and incorrect movements was unraveling the healing quickly.

Heeling the Knee

While taking some classes in proper weight lifting techniques, I realized just how important the heel is when applying any force. I began to see that when I tried to come up from squats while pushing down from the front part of my foot, it increased the pain in my knees. So I began to meticulously analyze how I walked, how I stood up from a chair, and how I climbed the stairs.

I began to shift the force of my weight from the front parts of my feet towards the back. Within a few months, my knee pain disappeared. Now I am able to squat down and even place the majority of my weight on either legs without any knee problem. Miraculous? No.. apparently it’s just physics.

Stand up straight soldier

Same goes for my back pain. Growing up I would stoop a lot. This stooping would cause my big head, and my big heart, to pull down on my lower back, hips, and thighs. By the time I was in my late teens, I could not sleep at night because of the back pain. Again I went to massage therapy and it helped, but again it would keep coming back.

So you can guess the fix, I lifted my head up high and walked a little taller and over some time, no more back pains. Now I can touch my toes.

Again, it’s no miracle

It should be obvious to you that not only did I fix my postures, but I’ve also kept exercising and stretching, eating healthier, keeping my weight down. All of these are important factors too. But I know personally how difficult it is to do any of these.. let alone all of those at once.

It requires a change of lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to be radical. What I’d suggest for you, if you’re a fat suffering person like I was, is to at least start by walking a little taller and placing your feet more firmly on the ground.